The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts is more than just a premiere art destination in the heart of Highlands, NC. It's a living testament to the art of preservation, where creativity flows like a river and old tales find new life. Ever since construction first began on the six-acre campus in 2007, The Bascom has ingeniously integrated the past into its present, transforming relics into masterpieces and breathing new life into forgotten treasures.
The Main Building: Reassembled
Step inside The Bascom's main building, and you'll find yourself in a space where history whispers from every corner. This sprawling 27,500-square-foot museum-quality haven is a fusion of old-world charm and modern design. The architects behind this masterpiece, Dewolf Architecture and Lord Aeck and Sargent Architecture, were visionaries who created a timeless connection between art and history.
At the main building’s core lies a 49-foot by 97-foot barn frame that was built in 1838 in Linglestown, PA, where it functioned as a stagecoach stop until the 1920s and was then repurposed for farm operations. Thanks to the expertise and generosity of Wayne Yonce, a local contractor from Franklin, NC, the heavy oak timbers were meticulously disassembled, relocated to The Bascom, and reassembled on site in 2007. The barn siding, predominantly oak and hemlock timbers aged over a century, traveled from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia to become part of this captivating narrative. Now refurbished and incorporated into the art center, the barn is home to modern galleries, classrooms, meeting spaces, and more while staying true to its historic character.
Another element that really sets the main building apart is the old-growth white pine wood beneath your feet. The Bascom's floors aren't just any floors; they are pieces of history reincarnated. David Grant Howard, once a part-time Highlands resident, led the charge in purchasing recycled wood from several historic barns. Some of these floorboards once served as "threshing floors" where wheat was painstakingly scattered and struck with sticks and leather beaters. This age-old process bestowed upon The Bascom's wood its unique irregular nicks and warm patina. These floors bear the marks of their past lives, adding character to every step. Hand-sanded and finished with three to four coats of heavy-bodied urethane, these floors are not just a surface; they are a testament to honoring the past.
The Dave Drake Studio Barn: Repurposed
A pivotal moment in The Bascom's journey is the transformation of the Dave Drake Studio Barn. Once an integral part of Crane Horse Stables, a well-known landmark in the Highlands community, the barn now stands as a symbol of history’s enduring spirit. Where decades ago, Highlands residents and guests could pay $1.50 to ride horses, they can now attend pottery classes and enjoy three-dimensional arts instruction. Rebuilt with meticulous attention to detail, The Bascom was committed to honoring the property’s authenticity and incorporating this iconic structure into their modern campus. A successful feat to preserve history while nurturing creativity.
The Will Henry Stevens Bridge: Resurrected
Yet another example of The Bascom's dedication to preserving history is the Will Henry Stevens Bridge. Formerly known as the Bagley Bridge, this massive rough-hewn structure spans an impressive 87 feet and 5 inches. Its origins date back to the early 1800s when it spanned the Warner River in New Hampshire. But for 40 years, it languished in storage, a forgotten relic.
The Bascom, however, saw the potential for resurrection. With generous donations this bridge found a new home in Highlands. In the hands of bridgewright Arnold Graton, using handcraft techniques and trunnel (treenail) joinery, it was reconstructed with meticulous care in 2009. Today, it proudly serves as the one-way entrance into The Bascom's campus. This bridge is more than just a structural marvel. In fact, it's worth noting that this bridge, once lost in obscurity, is now most likely the largest recycled object in all Western North Carolina—an embodiment of The Bascom's dedication to breathing new life into the past.
The Bascom isn't just an art center; it's a sanctuary where history finds a canvas. It's a place where every brushstroke tells a tale, where the past isn't forgotten but celebrated. Whether you're an art enthusiast, a history buff, or anything in between, The Bascom awaits, ready to share its mesmerizing tale of preservation and creativity with you.